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‘Indo-US ties strong, but not without challenges’

US relationship with India is growing stronger, but is not without challenges.

Washington: US relationship with India is
growing stronger, but is not without challenges as New Delhi
in its effort to maintain its strategic autonomy is seeking to
balance its associations with many other nations as well, a
top Pentagon commander told lawmakers.

"The relationship with India is strong and growing
stronger. It`s not without its challenges," US Pacific
Commander (PACOM) Admiral Robert Willard, said responding
questions at a Congressional hearing.

"We don`t have a long history between the countries, as
you know. We went through a Cold War without much of a
relationship at all. Following the nuclear tests in the late
1990s, we suspended relations government to government. So
we`ve really only been acquainted with India in the past
decade," Willard said.

"And mil-to-mil, we began at a pretty nascent stage
and have progressed to the point that today we exercise with
India across all the services. It`s one of the most
significant security assistance programmes that we have in the
Asia-Pacific Theater right now," he said.

He said the US and India have made great progress in
bilateral ties.

"At the same time, they pride themselves in what
they term strategic autonomy, kind of, a non-alliance
philosophy. And as a consequence of that, we are challenged in
the relationship by virtue of India seeking to balance its
associations with many other nations as well.

"We`re challenged in our relationship with Pakistan as
a consequence of the animosity that has existed historically
between India, Pakistan," Willard explained giving reasons for
challenges in the US-India relationships.

"And India is in a very challenged part of the world, as
we all know, with Afghanistan close by; Pakistan as a
neighbour; the Kashmir issue, which has persisted for a long
time; and a disputed border between India, China.

"So there are a lot of issues on the plate, and we`re
seeking to continue to dialogue with India -- terror being one
of them -- and try to improve the relationships where we can,"
he said.

In his written testimony, Willard said pursuing a
US-India strategic partnership through a close alignment of
respective regional security interests is a priority for the
US Department of Defence and USPACOM.


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